Youths Say Dormont Cops Want Them Off Potomac

Parents and their teens say police are making an effort to keep youths away from Potomac Avenue's business district, but the police chief says that’s not the case—as far as he knows.


Skateboarding is not a crime.

Neither is walking.

But in Dormont, some parents are hazy about where police are drawing the line. They say officers have warned their teenagers that simply walking along Potomac Avenue’s business district could get them arrested.

Dormont police Chief Richard Dwyer said a borough ordinance on streets, making it a non-traffic offense. But nothing prohibits youths from walking through the neighborhood.

“There is no ordinance that says a kid can’t walk there,” Dwyer said, adding that such a measure would violate civil rights.

Dwyer said he’s occasionally come across reports where officers ask kids congregating around businesses to move along. But there’s no concerted effort to crack down on kids skateboarding or hanging out on Potomac Avenue, he said, and he hasn’t seen citations concerning either since taking over as interim chief in June.

“I read every report every day, and I have not seen one citation,” Dwyer said.

He can’t guarantee that officers aren’t giving these warnings, Dwyer added, but he has yet to witness such an incident or receive a complaint about it.

Among youths, that lack of communication could be a result of shaken trust.

Justin Warner, for instance, said he had to take refuge in an alley after a police encounter earlier this month.

Warner, 17, said he and his 16- and 19-year-old brothers were walking home along Potomac Avenue when a police car came to a stop.

“They basically just told us to go somewhere,” Warner said, “and if we didn’t, or if they saw us again, that they were going to put us in the back of the cop car.”

Warner, who doesn’t skateboard and was on foot at the time, said the officers did not give him a chance to explain himself.

Since Warner and his brothers live on Potomac Avenue and would have to continue walking on it to get home, they went instead to an alley near Tom’s Diner and called their mother for a ride.

“It wasn’t like that when I was a kid,” said Lisa Pasheuta, the boys’ Dormont-raised mother. “We never had any problems with the police unless we did something wrong.”

Pasheuta and her sons had just moved back to on Nov. 1 after living in Beaver County for about 10 years.

“I never been in trouble with the cops at all,” Warner said, adding that he’s tried to avoid Potomac since the incident. “I don’t want to get arrested for walking.”

Mandy Swartzwelder, who grew up with Pasheuta and whose 15-year-old son, Jake Swartzwelder, is a friend of Warner’s, said her son also was mistreated by police.

On Dec. 22, Swartzwelder and her son, who turns 16 two days later, will appear in court for a “defiant trespass” citation he received after he and a friend ducked into an apartment building’s hallway to warm up around 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 1.

They had lived in the building, which sits at the corner of Potomac and West Liberty avenues, for about eight years and had moved out less than a year before the incident, she said. Jake had waited for rides there in the past, she added, and he didn’t think it was a problem.

When she left work to pick up Jake, officers explained that there were “no trespassing” signs and told her they were tired of kids hanging out the streets, she said.

“The cops said to me, ‘We’re just going to start arresting everybody,'" Swartzwelder said.

Swartzwelder maintains that her son was not doing anything improper other than being there, and she thinks the citation was harsh. A single mother, she had to borrow $500 from her own mother to hire an attorney.

More importantly, she said, teenagers who can’t drive don’t have many options when it comes to recreation. Swartzwelder supports the development of a skate park in the borough and thinks a youth center would be beneficial, too.

“There’s nowhere for them to go,” she said.

Jake, who skateboards, had previously been hassled for skating in the parking lot next to their former apartment, she added—even after he had gotten permission from the bank’s manager to do so after closing time.

“They’re just harassing the kids up here,” Swartzwelder said. “The kids don’t trust them.

“You’re supposed to look up to cops,” she said. “They’re supposed to be there to help you.”

For his part, Dwyer said the officers had the right to cite Jake Swartzwelder, owing to the signs that were displayed.

As for Warner’s incident, Dwyer said he’s heard nothing of it. Which is a problem, he added, if Warner’s story is true.

“If a policeman told him that, he would be absolutely wrong,” Dwyer said.

Unless folks report incidents, he said, it’s hard to investigate the issue.

“If they have a problem, the parent should come to me,” he said.

Asked if she reported the incident to the police chief, Pasheuta said she hadn’t—partly because she thought the officers were acting in compliance with an ordinance and partly because she feared her sons would see a backlash.

“I didn’t want a fine, to be honest with you,” Pasheuta said. “And I didn’t want them being targeted.”

TonyHawkRulez November 17, 2011 at 09:09 PM
What they did not mention that the police also said, that potomac ave was for "show only", leave the kids alone-let them be kids.
Lou Pietosi November 17, 2011 at 10:27 PM
Something tells me that somewhere in the middle of these two sides is the REAL truth!
Lou Pietosi November 17, 2011 at 10:30 PM
When I was a kid in Dormont I was once ARRESTED for cathcing a frisbie in a parking lot on W Liberty Avenue!!!! So some cops CAN be ornery when having a bad day or wanting to show a little "power". Having said that--if my kid were simply walking and truly starting no trouble, I would MAKE HIM walk on Potomac Avenue EVERY CHANCE HE COULD and DARE the police to arrest him. IF, on the other hand, I found out my kid was doing more than just walking, he would have a hard time walking for a few days!!! LOL
Joey Solak November 17, 2011 at 11:32 PM
Where are the kid's parents in these cases? When did it become the community's responsible to cater to every single kid's interest? So we a build a skatepark and a couple kids hang out there. I guess if the community finds out that a couple kids enjoy playing lazer tag we'll plow over the baseball field in Dormont and build that there..
dormont876 November 18, 2011 at 12:07 AM
have you tried going to these community meetings? if people are publicly depositing feces, that is the most immediate concern in the community rather than Dormont lacking a skate boarding park. we need to end public pooping asap. wasn't there a local skate boarding park closed temporarily because someone publicly deposited feces in the skate boarding park?
gasman November 18, 2011 at 01:32 AM
Hyperbole is par for the course when it comes to parents talking about thir kids. No way their little "angels" could possibly do nothing wrong. The police barely keep up with patrolling Dormont. Sidewalks go unshoveled all winter, a woman on our street parked on her sidewalk every night for over a year, pedestrians get harassed walking along Potomac at night, and the T stop can be a pretty sketchy place at certain times of the day. So if the police, despite bing near idle most of the time, can be bothered to actually stop somebody, chances are the person stopped was at least acting suspiciously.
Lindsey W November 18, 2011 at 03:06 AM
I am not one to really complain much but I'm quite sick of these kids hanging around Potomac avenue cussing up a storm and HARASSING regular people walking by like me. These cops should be putting them into place if their parents won't. I have lived in Castle Shannon/Dormont my whole entire life and I have never acted like these disrespectful kids. I'm 23. This has got to stop. These kids aren't being bullied, they are being put in their place. I'd rather them scatter off than to light off smoke bombs and smoke cigs in the lobby of my apartment where my mail is. I wouldn't mind them around if they weren't bothering anyone but in these cases they are doing exactly that and next time I am going to say something to them.
Michael November 18, 2011 at 06:20 AM
According to the census, there's about 1400 residents in Dormont between the ages of 5 and 18. Your guess is as good as mine as to how many of those are teens. That being said, consider that it appears that these issues are occurring with about a dozen or so teens, according to the statements in news stories and comments. Quite possibly, recurring issues with the same ones over and over. The complaints by business owners such as Amy Mokricky are legitimate concerns. When concerns such as these arise, it is reasonable to address them with the proper authorities, or in this case the police department. The police have several options when addressing this type of issue, but that needs to be left to the officer's discretion. The officer is there in the moment, under the circumstances which elicited police action. It is up to the officer to explain his course of action. That being said, if a warning is not sufficient to gain compliance, then it would be fitting that the all officers simply issue citations in lieu of further warnings. This would allow the alleged offenders their day in court. Barring any situation where the judge would exercise his own discretion to give a second chance to the offender or an agreement between prosecution and defense to withdraw the charge, the testimony and resulting verdict would speak for itself. That way there would be less ambiguity as to whether the problem is bad policing or bad parenting. . .continued
Michael November 18, 2011 at 06:40 AM
One can not on one hand accuse the police of inaction, then on the other claim that the police are overzealous when it suits the current purpose. That would be known as ethical relativism. It would not be acceptable for an adult to linger about the street with no legitimate purpose, insulting passers-by, urinating and defecating in public places or on private property where there is no legitimate right to be, and infringe upon the safety and peace of others. Why is it acceptable for teens to do these things? Instead of addressing why we have teens engaging in this behavior in our community, we choose to use this as a platform to air our own personal opinions about the police? I'm embarrassed for those who do not have the courage or ability to see the situation for what it is and address it. . .especially the parents.
Lou Pietosi November 18, 2011 at 06:43 AM
When I was making final plans for our September Benefit concert at the Hollywood Theater there were about a dozen teenagers sitting under cover at the church across the street from the theater shouting profanities and being disrespectful to a few older people who were entering the side door of the church for a meeting. Both John Maggio and myself actually asked these kids to show some respect nut that only lasted a few seconds until a man working at the church told them to either stop their foul language or he would call the police. I was amazed that these young people were acting this way despite our trying to stop them and especially on directing it at elderly people on church property! I support the police immediately writing citations or physically removing them when they show such a reckless disregard for others!
Joey Solak November 18, 2011 at 12:02 PM
I agree that if the kids are being disrespectful to others the police need to take action, but if they are kids just walking around being kids just leave them be. I've also noticed people talking about feces, etc in the alleyways. Those couldn't possibly be from drunk people making their way home from one of the bars. To remedy this whole situation there needs to be cooperation between parents, and police.
Ed M November 18, 2011 at 12:30 PM
This is a tough one. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish the trouble makers from the good kids. It appears there is a lack of activities for these kids and hanging out is the result. Maybe Dormont needs to address this.
dormont876 November 18, 2011 at 12:45 PM
public depositing of feces might be a sign of drug abuse. i keep hearing stories of people seeing\finding needles in the community.
Mike November 18, 2011 at 01:42 PM
Perhaps the police should focus on the cars parked on West Liberty Ave during rush hour than on harrassing people. It might be bring some revenue into the borough and increase traffic safety.
John Spoon November 18, 2011 at 02:33 PM
this is exactly why I stopped walking to/from the T during Pens games and trips down town.
Born & Raised in Dormont November 18, 2011 at 02:44 PM
What about parents taking accountability for there kids? When did it become the police deparments responsibility to babysit these kids? The police are doing what needs to be done in order to keep this boro safe. It is a disgrace that all you see when driving along West Liberty and Potomac Avenue is gangs of kids pushing and shoving one another, littering, using profanity, yelling at the ederly or anyone that happens to be walking by and block the sidewalks for people to walk by. Maybe if some of these kids stayed home instead of on the streets there parents could teach them some respect and how to respect there elders? I grew up in Dormont we didn't have anything to do either as kids but we always found something to do and it was not haning out on a main street in the boro disrupting the businesses and public.
Kristin November 18, 2011 at 03:01 PM
I can't wait until my lease is up to move out of Dormont because of the bad teenagers. Not saying that every teenager that walks the streets are bad but a good portion should be threatened by the police for their behavior. Being afraid to park your car by PNC because some kid will hit it or feeling uncomfortable to go into your apartment because a group of kids are huddled around the door right behind you. It’s private property and I don’t care if you lived there a year ago you don’t live there now. Kids were smoking in our lobby and throwing off stink bombs. Cursing constantly and heaven forbid if you have to walk by them and need to get through because they don’t care. Shouting and yelling in the middle of the night. Starting fights with anyone that walks by and taking grocery cart rides down the hill. It sounds like someone is getting robbed or rapped when they’re screaming so I really hope no one needs help one day because I wouldn’t know the difference. I lost so many hours of sleep living here. Parents-take control of your kids and teach them some manners!! Articles like this empower them and they think they can get away with everything. If the police start backing off because of you complaining parents then im on board with taking action into my own hands which would not be a good outcome for anyone. The residents and business owners are the victims here not the kids so get your story straight.
lisa pashuta November 18, 2011 at 03:13 PM
Since when is it a a crime to walk down the street? my boys have never been arrested or in the back of a police car in their lives. i moved back to Dormont because i believed it was a safe place for my family to live. this is so wrong in so many ways my kids are not trying to disrespect anyone they were walking down the street with their friends that is it. the police have no right to tell them to get off the street when they was doing nothing wrong. the police need to take care of more important situations that go on in this town.
Lindsey W November 18, 2011 at 04:21 PM
If your kids are minding their own and are not apart the harassment and juvenile acts that happen daily on Potomac Avenue or in Dormont in general then I'm sorry that your kids feel threatened by the police and you should address that with them. On the other hand the majority of the 14-16 year old kids that hang around have been a huge issue here. Disrespectful, harassing, and apparently in some cases threatening to other people that are innocently living and walking here in the community. If this continues then I will be calling the cops daily on these kids until they clean their act up or something gets done about it.
Bryan November 18, 2011 at 04:43 PM
My kids are still a little younger, however my warning to them has been this; Stay off of Potomac! Why, because I know what goes on there with these kids! How do I know? My kids tell me daily about who fought who, who goes down there to start trouble etc. even the kids know what's going on there. So I have told my kids to walk another way home! If I catch them on Potomac or am told that they are there the punishment will be quick and harsh! Parents talk to your kids on a real level, they will tell you what is really going on if you have taught them to be honest and respectful! Kudos to DPD for getting the kids off the streets that cause problems whose parents are not capable of doing so.
Ed M November 18, 2011 at 06:05 PM
Without parental support, the police are helpless.
mary pitcher November 18, 2011 at 06:30 PM
Debbie--- I had to make a phone call on behalf of 2 ppl, one a minor and one an adult. They were doing me a favor at 7PM at night by going to Cassandras florals to retrieve a tent borrowed for the business assoc. after the street fair last year. The two left from the shop, went down the street and within 5 minutes came back ...breathless... saying lock the door! I flew to the door to see a woman talking to herself walking by. After they calmed down they told me the woman approached them saying.... I am a 56 year old crack addict but I have some weed in my appartment. Do you want to go smoke some? These 2 said no and came flying back up West Liberty and the lady was still talking to them trying to get them to smoke weed with her while they came in! The minor called his Mother & I told her I was calling the police and Sgt. Bisignani (sorry about sp) came down right away to take a report. By that time the lady who was walking up to the Library was gone! I have no clue if they ever found this woman...but i think besides the kids hanging out in the area.... Parents should be aware that this kind of thing also happens ...and they should talk to their children & their childrens friends more and become pro-active & listen to what they are being told by them and not be affraid to go to the police with complaints! They could save their own child or anoher childs life just doing so!
Lou Pietosi November 18, 2011 at 06:42 PM
RIGHT ON Ed! How and WHY are these same kids allowed to repeatedly hang out on the street once they've been cited? Perhaps the parents of minors should also be cited for repeat offenders. When I was a kid the first time I was cited would be the LAST! As for Mary's story of the woman smoking weed, let's not give Dormont a bad name because of an isolated incident. Its still a safe community that I'm proudyo have my son own a house in. Bad people are everywhere but certainly Dormont is not a "high crime, drug" area
mary pitcher November 18, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Lou, I am not trying to give Dormont a bad name at all, but pointing out to parents another reason why children should not be hanging out on the streets by themselves and that parents should know where their children are..
John Spoon November 18, 2011 at 06:51 PM
I'm not taking any sides here but I think Mary is just saying that there are issues all over. Who knows, some of these kids may belong to the weed smoking crackhead. Fact is there is a problem overall with disobedience. My question is, do we have the police manpower to keep orderly conduct during business hours and enforce the curfew at night while still preserving safety throughout the borough?
Lou Pietosi November 18, 2011 at 06:54 PM
I understand what you're saying Mary. My advice to kids is to stay in groups IF they can behave! You can't stop kids from "hanging out" occassionally nor should we. But these kids who do nothing BUT hang out are a result of poor parenting. There are a TON of antivities to keep them busy much of the time and it appears the parents are too lazy to get them involved.
MSgt. John DeLallo November 19, 2011 at 11:28 AM
Debby, Lou, Mary (and others of like mind). 30 years ago, more or less, when one of my "innocent little darlings" got rousted by the Dormont PD, Joe Gonzalez, or Gus Melis would bring them home to ME! A fate far worse than a trip to the pokey or to Bill Ivill's office. They were confident that I would mete out appropriate justice, and I did. My kids called me, as did others "the meanest Dad in Dormont". I took it as a compliment. You're all correct. Personal responsibility for your children is the beginning and the end of any problems that might arise. I'm surprised this is newsworthy. Kids have been getting chased off the business district for decades. Perhaps today's kids don't have the same level of parenting that my boys and their friends had. Perhaps the parents haven't made an effort to get to know the local PD. I hired one cop, and another was a classmate of my boys. Believe it or don't, the Dormont PD is NOT some 3 eyed monster. Under the blue suits, they're decent folks who deserve a little respect. Hopefully under the new administration, the cops won't be treated like children by council.
Mary Beth Kovic November 19, 2011 at 05:29 PM
Respect starts at home. Parents need to teach their children how to behave and they need to know where their kids are at all times and what they are doing. It is not up to the borough or taxpayers to provide entertainment for kids (or adults for that matter). Being bored is no excuse for bad behavior. It is not the police departments responsibility to babysit the children in Dormont. If an officer tells a kid to move on, then that is exactly what should happen. I suspect there is much more to this story. If the 3 boys were truly just walking home to their house on Potomac, why didn't they simply politely tell the officer their address and continue peacefully on their way? The business owners, residents and guests to the borough should not be afraid of being harassed by disrespectful kids or drunken adults. Personally, I think the slang term "cops" is inherently disrespectful and adults using that send a bad message to their kids. They are police officers. Their job is to keep the community safe and for that, they are entitled to respect.
teresa caprio November 26, 2011 at 03:59 AM
The last two posters are on the right track!
Kelly July 03, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Because they sit on Dormont Council maybe?


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something